[PHOTO: UNSPLASH/ALEXANDRECHAMBON]What values should we really be celebrating?

Jack in the Box restaurants became famous as the first major chain to use an intercom and the first to focus on drive-through food service. Now they're making newsfor a different reason: in honor of California's legalization of recreational marijuana, they are offering the "Merry Munchie Meal." The combo includes "the most craveable and snackable products that Jack in the Box has to offer."

The marijuana debate

On January 1, California began selling recreational marijuana. Lines formed outside stores licensed to sell the drug long before opening hours. The state is expected to become the world's largest market for legal recreational marijuana.

In related news, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the nation. Federal law continues to prohibit growing, buying, or using the drug. However, numerous states have legalized these activities.

The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would not stand in the way of these states, so long as officials kept marijuana from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and out of the hands of criminal gangs and children. Sessions is rescinding this policy, allowing US attorneys across the country to decide what kinds of federal resources to devote to marijuana enforcement based on priorities in their districts.

I have voiced my opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana in the past. Health issues associated with the drug are enough to raise significant concerns.

For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use significantly increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes and has been connected with cancer. Long-term use of marijuana negatively affects brain development. It also harms the lungs.

One in ten marijuana users will become addicted to the drug. Addicts may be at a higher risk of problems with attention, memory, and learning.

According to the CDC website, "Marijuana users are significantly more likely than nonusers to develop chronic mental disorders, including schizophrenia." The drug has also been linked to depression and anxiety. Marijuana "edibles" pose a greater risk of poisoning. And secondhand marijuana smoke could affect the health of nonsmokers, including babies and children.

Since marijuana laws were liberalized in Colorado, the state is experiencing more car crash fatalities involving marijuana-using drivers, along with accidental ingestion and poisoning of children who inadvertently consume edibles packaged as candy and soda.

Four values that changed the world

Our laws reflect our values. In the case of legalizing recreational marijuana, the values of financial gain, popular opinion, and personal freedom are apparently more important than the values of physical, mental, and emotional health.

The marijuana debate illustrates the fact that we cannot legislate morality effectively. Laws compete with each other, as in the case of federal and state laws regarding marijuana enforcement. Laws can be interpreted in various ways. And it is impossible for lawmakers to anticipate every potential ethical problem.

As a result, we need values that will guide our decisions and form our character. On this first Friday of the new year, I'd like to offer four such values for consideration.

After the miracle of Pentecost, we read that the early Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). "Devoted themselves" translates proskartereo, meaning "to be committed exclusively to." These believers oriented their lives around four practices that they valued above all others:

• "The apostles' teaching"–a doctrinal worldview taught by church leaders.
• "The fellowship"–not just relationships in general, but intentional relationships with fellow believers.
• "The breaking of bread"–likely a reference to the Lord's Supper and the larger experience of Christian worship.
• "The prayers"–not just individual, spontaneous prayer, but organized, structured times of prayer with God.

As a result, "awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles" (v. 43). The believers helped each other while "praising God and having favor with all the people" (v. 47a). And "the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (v. 47b).

These believers soon "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6) and sparked a movement that transformed their world. If we wish to impact our culture this year as they impacted theirs, perhaps we should make their values ours.

So, ask yourself these diagnostic questions: When last did reading Scripture change your life? With whom are you doing life intentionally? Is worship a daily priority for you or just a Sunday program? Do you pray systematically and passionately?

If you were to take a step closer to Acts 2 Christianity, what would you do next?

Originally published at the Denison Forum.

Adapted from Dr. Jim Denison's daily cultural commentary at www.denisonforum.org. Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith and culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture in February 2009 and is the author of seven books, including "Radical Islam: What You Need to Know." For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum. Original source: www.denisonforum.org.
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